Today we’re joined by Eleanor who recently bought an existing franchise and plunged head first into the world of business ownership. Over to Eleanor to share more about her career and what a day in the life really looks like when you spend your day with 70 toddlers!
After University I decided I wanted to focus on a career in childcare so I spent the next year getting some relevant qualifications and experience. I landed my first job as a Deputy Nursery Manager and kept on studying, completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Early Years Practice, and the Early Years Professional Status. Two years later I moved from Leeds to London (having met a South-East London boy) and worked very happily and successfully as a Nursery Manager.
Nursery Management and Ofsted
After five years, my husband and I decided to make the move back up north. I had decided that I was ready for a change from management, and so was over the moon when I was accepted on the training to become an Ofsted inspector. However unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that this was not the job for me. Having worked in a busy team environment, I was suddenly spending most of my week at home with my grumpy cat, writing reports, and when I did go out to settings, no one was ever pleased to see me! While I found the training and experience invaluable, I missed the interaction with children and families terribly.
I was lucky enough to get a fantastic, exciting job that was perfect for me after that; managing the opening of a high-end nursery, leading every element of the project, from the recruitment, to the resourcing, setting policies and procedures, staff training, preparation for the registration inspection – it was everything I could have wanted, with a fantastic salary to boot. However…a twist of fate meant that this job was not meant to be either… I fell pregnant on the exact same weekend that I was offered the job by the nursery owners. Unfortunately, by the end of my pregnancy, I had become very unhappy in the role and so decided that I wasn’t going to go back after maternity leave. If things had been different, I had planned to go back to work after four months. I had imagined that I would have to take baby to nursery with me, and work the same long hours that I always had done. However, once Oliver came along, and I had new elements to consider (time with him/paying for childcare) I realised that working full time perhaps wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore (bit of a cliché really but given that I didn’t have a job to go back to the decision was easier).
Buying A Franchise
I came across Toddler Sense after attending Baby Sensory (the sister company). I realised that buying a baby/toddler class franchise was something that massively appealed; an opportunity to run my own business, while at the same time working within a supportive network, with ready-made systems and class plans, and still working with children and parents in a fun and stress-free way! A break from working in regulated childcare also really appealed.
I ended up buying an existing business, which ensured that I had a relatively predictable income from the very start (which is not the case if you set up your franchise in a new territory). I run classes in two locations on two days, with up to 140 children aged between 13 months and 5 years attending across the week.
A Day In The Life
On my class days, I drive over to the venues I hire, unload the van (love being a white van driver!) set up the play areas with the bouncy castles, soft play, tents, and tunnels and make sure everything looks lovely for when the children arrive. First there’s ‘Exploration Time’, a great way of settling the children in, and letting them burn off some energy on the huge range of equipment and resources; the children can’t wait to see what will be set up each week! Each week has a unique theme which keeps it super varied and exciting for the children (and the parents!) A 20/25-minute activity session follows, rich in sensory exploration, songs, dance, and creativity. After the classes, I pack down the equipment and put everything back in the van. It’s super physical – I don’t need a gym membership! However, I can’t tell you how much fun it is – dancing around with my bubble machine, shaking my pom poms to euro pop tunes – not what I envisaged myself doing this time last year, but I’m having an absolute ball! I work with some amazing families, and I have also met some absolutely gorgeous women who have the franchise in other areas – I never feel like I’m working completely solo, which is a huge advantage of having this type of business.
The other parts of the job are usually completed during the evenings and Oliver’s nap times; lots of social media marketing, accounts management, ordering equipment, responding to parent enquiries, planning and preparation for the classes and crafting fun and fabulous things for the activities (I’ve recently found a fondness for felt!!) I probably spend four evenings a week, and sometimes a bit of the weekend on those things so it isn’t just the two days of classes, however, I am completely content with this new work/life balance – it means that I have three days at home with my little man, and the money that I am making is more than I would be if I was just working two days a week doing something else. I love being in control of my own business and having the flexibility to run it in a way that works for me and no-one else!
My advice for anyone looking at buying a franchise would be to dig deep! Look very carefully at the numbers, and make sure that they definitely add up to what you need them to. Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions, for example, what support is given by the franchise, what marketing material do they provide, what is included in your franchise fee, are the technical systems robust and effective? Look really closely at the day to day stuff involved, and really try to imagine what life will look like doing it.
To find out more about Eleanor’s classes visit the Toddler Sense Harrogate and Wetherby Facebook Page.